Toyota, UC-Irvine Launch Shared Electric Vehicle Experiment

Toyota, UC-Irvine Launch Shared Electric Vehicle Experiment

Unplug your Toyota from its power grid, drive it to work or class, and leave it for somebody else’s use. When you need another ride, just look for the nearest replacement car, unplug it, and hit the road.

That’s the vision Toyota and the University of California at Irvine share for the Living Power Park Laboratory, an innovative Department of Energy program unveiled at Cal-Irvine last Wednesday. The plan: A stationary fuel cell powers a grid, which in turn charges a dozen Toyota electric commuter cars. The nine foot long e-cars will be available for local commuting on campus. The cars are to be shared: just use as needed and return to a depot.

Mike Michels, a Toyota spokesperson, said the six-month experiment begun last week is promising, but electric battery vehicles generally face an uphill climb with the public. Michels says buyers have been turned off by electric vehicles’ limited range, high price, and dependence on recharging systems.

“Initially, the e.com Toyotas will be assigned to individuals to commute to and from work or campus,” Michels said. “With their relatively small 60-mile cruising range, the e.coms will not replace the family car.”

According to Michels, Toyota hopes the Living Power Park Laboratory will show that electric battery vehicles are commercially viable and can reduce pollution where used.